All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See


Anthony Doerr

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on All the Light can help.

All the Light We Cannot See: 4. Two Cans Summary & Analysis

Marie-Laure wakes up from a delirious sleep in the cellar beneath the house. She finds that she’s still holding the model house, and still wearing Etienne’s coat. She wonders what’s going on outside—if the Germans are still present in the city, or if they’ve left in a panic. Perhaps Etienne has been killed in the bombing. She feels for supplies in the cellar, and is relieved to find a set of cans. She remembers going to the Panthéon with her father Daniel, years ago. There, they watched Foucault’s pendulum spinning across the floor, “grooving and regrooving its inhuman truth.”
Even though Etienne and Daniel are (apparently) gone from her life at this point, Marie-Laure is still symbolically protected by both these father figures, as Etienne’s coat and Daniel’s model house keep her company in her time of need. The reference to Foucault’s pendulum needs some explanation: the 19th century scientist Léon Foucault believed that he could prove the Earth’s rotation by measuring the changes in the swaying of a pendulum. He hung such a pendulum from the ceiling of the Panthéon, an important, historical building in France (not to be confused with the Pantheon of Rome). For Marie-Laure, the swaying of this pendulum suggests the inevitability of the laws of the world—and the terrors of fate.
Fate, Duty, and Free Will Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Science and “Ways of Seeing” Theme Icon